It's a shame that David Carradine, on the cusp of a serious comeback thanks to his casting in Tarantino's Kill Bill films, died when he did and the way that he did. He left behind an interesting legacy in martial arts and exploitation movies, but also appeared in pretty much every genre under the sun, from westerns to standard action movies to more serious dramatic roles (though not as frequently). One of his final films, however, was this 2007 production directed by Jon Keeyes - and it's hardly a highpoint in the man's career.
Rather than wax nostalgic about the late Mr. Carradine, however, let's talk about the movie at hand. The film tells the story of a single mother named Christie Wallace (Dominique Swain) who witnesses a murder on Christmas Eve. She makes it away from the scene but soon finds out that she didn't just witness any murder, she witnessed a serial killer at work. Dubbed The Picasso Killer, this maniac (played as well as a maniac can be played by real life maniac Udo Kier) has got a thing for attractive women as is made obvious by his string of victims - and it just so happens that Christie is an attractive woman herself. So as The Picasso Killer goes about killing hot chicks and throwing the giant city he lives in into a frenzy while the cops (lead by Carradine) do what they can to bring him in.
Christie's fear of The Picasso Killer tracking her down intensify when, by sheer coincidence, the entire city gets hit by a black out. With the city drenched in darkness, and Christie stuck in an office building surrounded by people she doesn't really know, one by one the bodies start piling up. Has The Picasso Killer tracked down the only living eye-witness to his horrible crimes and is he killing his way through the cardboard cast of supporting characters to get to her or is there more to this than that? Some sort of connection.....?
Fall Down Dead offers very few surprises, in fact, it's the very definition of predictable. Most of the characters are wholly one dimensional and uninteresting and the storyline goes exactly where you think it's going to. Putting Christie into an office building with a few strangers doesn't really build suspense so much as it prolongs what we know is the inevitable.
Not very much of what happens in this film is original, frightening, or suspenseful and while you may have thought based on the opening paragraph that this review would win up praising the late Mr. Carradine and claiming that to be the movie's saving grace, no, that isn't going to happen. The movie does, however, have a saving grace and it comes in the form of a weird little German man named Udo Kier. Though not particularly known by the 'mainstream' Kier has been a well respected member of the genre film community for decades now, having cemented his immortality with leading roles in Blood For Dracula and Flesh For Frankenstein. While his work here isn't on par with those established classics (hey, Criterion released them - they must be classics, right? Seriously though, they're great.). He plays the psychopath with enough conviction and idiosyncratic weirdness that he steals the scenes that he's in. Swain is nice to look at in the lead and Carradine is Carradine but Kier is the one that you'll remember here.
Is it enough though? Welllll........ if you're a Kier fan, yes. If you're not , well, there are better places to start in his filmography for this one, but everybody has to pay the bills. He does, however, do a very good job here. He doesn't quite turn a predictable serial killer movie into anything more, but he does at least make it entertaining. The movie is reasonably well shot, features a couple of predictable but well played set pieces and is just fine (if unremarkable) on a technical level - but Kier is good here and both his character and his character's motivation make this entirely disposable yet completely watchable.
Fall Down Dead looks okay on this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or nasty edge enhancement but black levels do sometimes get a little bit murky and muddy looking, you'll notice this in the opening murder scene. There are also a few scenes that, for whatever reason, are noticeably softer than others. Skin tones generally fare well enough and color reproduction is good, if a bit more subdued looking than you might expect it to be. Not an amazing image, but a perfectly acceptable one.
The sole audio track for the feature is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix, though subtitles are provided in both English SDH and Spanish. There isn't a ton of rear channel action here though some good channel separation is noticeable in the front of the mix and surrounds do kick in nicely in a couple of the more action intensive scenes. Generally levels are well balanced and dialogue is easy enough to understand. There aren't really any problems here to complain about - it's not an amazing track, but it gets the job done easily enough.
The only extra on the disc is a trailer for the feature and trailers for a few unrelated Image properties which play before the animated menu screen loads. Chapter stops are also included.
A mediocre film made more interesting than it has any right to be thanks to an enjoyably quirky performance from the great Udo Kier, Fall Down Dead is far from essential viewing but it's a fun film that entertains despite its flaws. Image's DVD looks and sounds perfectly fine, even if it doesn't really stand out as particularly impressive thanks to the lack of any substantial extras. Definitely a fun rental, not likely an essential purchase.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.